July 02, 2014 - Jeff Axt moved to Brandon Township because, like many others here, he liked the natural beauty of a rural community with ordinances in place to protect woodlands and wetlands, as well as prevent overdevelopment.
Now he feels he and other area landowners are being penalized for their desire to live here by multi-billion dollar companies that have deemed a route that cuts through Brandon and Groveland townships as the best location to bury pipelines that carry crude oil and natural gas.
"Somehow, if you like open property, you are deemed appropriate for a pipeline, rather than a higher density area," said Axt on Tuesday. "They seem to say, 'Well, we're just going to have to cut trees down.' They are degrading a class of landowners that want to leave property natural as God created...Why, if I want to leave it untouched, do I have less of an impact and hearing than if it runs right next to a Walmart parking lot? It's like they are placing a hierarchy. We don't want massive development in Brandon— we are buying land with knowledge of a woodlands ordinance, but then a pipeline company can come through and say it's agricultural land and we just want to chop trees down, and replant 2-footers. We count on those ordinances, but all of a sudden, everything is trumped when you put a pipeline through."
Axt was one of several homeowners who received a letter from ET Rover Pipeline LLC the last full week of June inviting them to attend an informational open house on a new proposed natural gas pipeline that would affect their properties. The nearest open house for area residents is one planned for 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., July 14, at the Fenton Township Hall, 12060 Mantawauka Drive, Fenton, 48430.
The letter was the residents' first communication about the pipeline, said Vicki Granado of Granado Communications Group, public relations for Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of ET Rover. The company launched "open season" for the proposed pipeline route on June 27. During open season, Granado said, the company secures business for the pipeline and shipment carriers, and must also get approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which according to the letter to residents, conducts a review to consider environmental impact "that could result if it issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity to authorize the Rover Pipeline Project."
"Obviously, our hope is that they grant permission," said Granado. "Nothing is set in stone. We have announced the project, but it's in the development phase and we have to obtain permits and regulatory approval."
If approved, construction on the 600-mile pipeline, which would transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio through Michigan and into Canada, would begin in early 2016. The pipeline is anticipated to be 42-inches in diameter and will transport 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, but will likely be expanded to transport up to 3.25 billion cubic feet per day. The three largest shippers on the project are American Energy – Utica, LLC, Antero Resources Corporation and Range Resources Corporation. American Energy and Antero Resources both have options to purchase non-operating equity interests in the project.
Granado said local residents would not receive natural gas in the pipeline, which would benefit markets in the midwest, Gulf Coast, and in Canada.
"Right now there is not enough pipeline to get all the gas produced to the areas where it is needed," she said."There is not enough infrastructure in place to carry all the natural gas produced... By adding infrastructure, we get more gas out there."
The primary goal is getting the natural gas to domestic market hubs, Granado continued. She admitted the gas may be exported, but declined to speculate on where.
"Public necessity to me means they are delivering natural gas to a carrier in this state," said Axt. "Enbridge is moving crude oil for export. Public necessity makes you think it will benefit this country. It may, but this (natural gas pipeline) may just pass through the state and be sold overseas... It's an undue burden on those townships and landowners unlucky enough to have the first corridor put through."
The route the ET Rover Pipeline Project is proposed to take is next to the Enbridge Line 6B petroleum pipeline in specific areas.
Replacement of the Line 6B pipeline began more than two years ago. The pipeline, which stretches about 210 miles from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville, Mich., includes three miles of pipeline in Groveland Township and six miles of pipeline in Brandon, as well as a 35-foot high pump station.
The original Enbridge pipeline remains in the ground, purged and deactivated, next to the new replacement pipeline, meaning the ET Rover project would be the third pipeline to be buried in Groveland and Brandon townships and potentially making for easements on private property of 120 feet.
"We already have two pipelines buried there," said Axt. "This makes the perfect argument for why they should have taken out the old pipeline. They could have tucked another in there so not continuing to take land. If one pipeline goes through, there may be an easement at the end of a driveway, but these pipelines are traversing major swaths of private property and at some point, it renders land useless."
Granado said while Enbridge and Energy Transfer Partners are unrelated companies, the plan to have the pipelines in the same right of way is a type of arrangement found across the country.
"It's actually regarded as a benefit, being able to utilize existing right of ways and not coming through in three or four different areas of right of way," she said. "If we negotiate right of way with local residents, they are compensated for that. Counties and townships will benefit from property taxes and different taxes we pay. Our goal is to work with each person and get a common arrangement and understanding and negotiate the proper right of way payment to them."
She noted that "the avenue of last resort" if a landowner is opposed to the pipeline is to pursue "eminent domain," in which private property can be taken for public use through legal channels, although she said Energy Transfer Partners "will use all avenues to not get to that point."
"I don't want to be threatened into giving up my land," said Axt. "I don't know where the pipeline is planned, which is a huge problem. It's not fair for a community with one pipeline to become a pipeline super highway. It's a disproportionate share of the risk."
In addition to the proposed pipeline, there would also be compression and metering stations along the route. Compression stations are buildings that contain equipment Granado describes as similar to a battery charger to ensure the natural gas continues to travel down the pipe at a consistent rate. Metering stations measure the gas coming through and can also require a building. She did not have information on how many stations would be needed or where they would be located.
While the ET Rover Pipeline project will follow state and federal regulations, Granado said the company doesn't need permits from each community it passes through.
"From our perspective, we have environmental concerns," she said. "We are always very careful. We don't like to run through state parks, watershed areas, we always look out for areas that have endangered species. We take all that in consideration when drawing a proposed route for a pipeline and do what we can to minimize impact. For Energy Transfer, restoration is an important part of of our project... We want to be a good neighbor and business partner in these communities."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville